A Christian’s attitude to life is entirely different. Common people and even immature believers fail to comprehend it. Consider the attitude of Apostle Paul as he suffers in jail. He writes, “I now rejoice in sufferings for you.” Colossians 1:24a. Though he is writing from prison he has no complaint, regret or question. In Philippians the other book he wrote during the same imprisonment, refers to believer’s joy around 17 times and exhorts the readers to rejoice in the Lord.
It was the general approach of the early Christians to rejoice in their sufferings. When the apostles were beaten and threatened by the Jewish council, they took it as a privilege. In Philippi, Paul and Silas were severely beaten with rod and imprisoned. Yet they chose to sing praises to God. Cf. Act. 5; 16: 23 – 25. Apostle Peter tells us that his readers too were rejoicing exceedingly even after going through various kinds of trials. 1Peter 1: 6
This is true Christian response to difficulties in life. We should not be moved or negatively influenced by what is happening around us. Adverse circumstances in life or difficult people we face should not take away our joy and peace of mind.
How is it possible? How can we be happy when everything is against us?
For common people it is difficult. Their joy is based on external things. When every thing is well -enough wealth, good position, fulfilled desires etc- they are happy. But a Christian’s joy comes from within as a result of his union with Christ. His joy is the joy of the Lord. Cf Phil 3:1; Neh. 8:10; Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22. It is supernatural and spiritual. That’s why even after going through various painful events a believer remains undisturbed and peaceful. That means an unbeliever can not experience it unless he / she is born again.
Yet, not all true born again Christians are fully prepared to suffer joyfully as apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:24. Most of us do prefer some comfort in life. Who desires difficulties! But Paul is enjoying his troubles. There are many reasons to be attributed to such an attitude: his trust in the Lord, his hope in the coming of the Lord and the glory associated with it including the rewards for his labour etc. But the most important factor that must challenge us today is his conviction that his suffering is for the sake of God’s people.
He is happy that through his difficulties in life, many more will be saved, edified and encouraged. To the Corinthian Christians he wrote ‘as the sufferings of Christ abound in us our comfort also abounds in us, we are afflicted for your comfort and salvation’. Cf. 2Co 1:5, 6. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” 2Co 4:12. ASV
Such an approach to spiritual life is necessary if one is to be useful for the Lord and His people. We must find it a joy to suffer for the sake of the Church – the body of Christ. Be willing to spend our money, energy, time, prestige, material etc, etc for the sake of the Church – the people of God.
In 2Cori 11: 23 onwards Paul gives a list of all the adversity he faced in his life while serving Christ. Even today, as we serve God and His people we will have to face similar difficulties. Apart from the possible aggression from those who oppose the gospel, many sleepless nights, long journeys, many sacrifices etc. are part of those who serve Him. Willingness to face it joyfully results in the joy and growth of God’s people.
Suffering: a challenge
When we bear all that God allows in life, it’s a challenge to others, our life becomes an example and the Lord is glorified in our life. He will begin to work in and through us. Look it from any point of view, it is the joyful suffering saints that leave a lasting impression in the lives of men and women for the glory of God.
Thanks for Fleas
Corrie ten Boom says this story of heir Nazi Concentration camp which was filthy and full of fleas. Her sister Betsie, imprisoned with her insisted that it is God’s will and thank God for this too. But giving thanks for a flea infested place seemed unrealistic to Corrie until she realized why the guards didn’t come in to their barracks to make stop praying and singing.
Guards wanted to avoid fleas. So prisoner were free to worship and study the Bible. Fleas too can be an agent of grace. Little trials, petty annoyances are ways that the Lord teaches us spiritual lessons. When the trials burden us to murmur –give thanks –even for the fleas. 1 Th.5:18.